Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rice, Poland, and the end of Obama's amateur hour

The first night, it was Chris Christie and Ann Romney. Then last night, the nation was treated to another "adults only" speech at the Republican National Convention, this one by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Paul Ryan followed her with a typical VP nomination acceptance speech, running the gamut form personal anecdotes to all-out attacks on the current Administration. It was fine, a plate of red meat for the base to enjoy and pundits to tear apart. But Rice's speech was the grand moment of the night, thoughtful, inspired, and politically astute.

Speaking on the issue of foreign policy, Rice says the following:
Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world — they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined. And our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve — because peace really does come through strength. Our military capability and technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s hands.
This is far from simple rhetoric. Yes, it appeals to those who worry about a weakening America, who believe in the need for a strong military and a dominant position in world politics. But it also specifically singles out other nations who have felt ignored--if not betrayed--by the current Administration (and make no mistake, Hillary Clinton knows this too, has likely been complaining in private to Obama and his posse for a while now). The Poles, for instance, had been unhappy with the current Administration, long before Obama's foolish "Polish death camp" gaffe. They were less then thrilled when Obama decided to scrap the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, nor were they happy about Obama's decision to go golfing, instead of attending the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski (to be fair, air travel was closed down over the Atlantic, so Obama couldn't have made the funeral, but he didn't have to hit the links on the same day).

And the unhappiness in Poland with Obama stems from a reality: the willingness of Poland to stand side by side with the United States in the War on Terror, to commit troops to Iraq and Afghanistan from the get-go. In one of the debates between Bush and Kerry in 2004, Kerry complained that only three countries--the U.S., England, and Australia--where initially involved in the Iraq Invasion. And Bush immediately pointed out that Kerry had "forgott[en] Poland." Some were apt to mock Bush's correction of Kerry's statement. But it wasn't a laughing matter--indeed, it still isn't--to Poles. Their special forces carried out vital and dangerous operations in Iraq. And again, they were on board all along. Yet, their participation is minimized or ignored by people like Kerry and Obama, by Democrats as a whole.

Poland had been under the thumb of other world powers for a long time, prior to the fall of the Wall. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Poland began a new chapter in its history with the election of Lech Walesa in 1990. At the same time, the people of Poland have contended with the "polack" jokes and a general tendency of other to take them less than seriously for decades. But Poland is a large country with a significant economy; it  has been a close ally of the United States, especially as regards actions against tyrants, for like other Eastern European nations (Estonian, Romania, etc.) Poland knows the difference between tyranny and freedom all too well; it knows implicitly where to stand.

And it's because of all this that Bush and his staff made a point of dealing with Poland as a respected equal, as a partner in both economic and political issues. Rice, of course, had a hand in all of this. And beyond it being sound foreign policy, it was also the right thing to do, not just the diplomatically correct course of action but also the morally correct one. Obama--despite his attempts to cull favor from voters with Polish roots--doesn't get any of this. For all of his supposed intellectual prowess and cultural empathy, he has been amazingly blind to his failures with Poland as a nation and the Poles as a people.

In one simple statement, Rice exposes the amateurism of the Obama Administration, curries favor with a Nation and a people, and reaffirms the commitment--real commitment--the United States has to its true allies. A simple glance at the various stories on Rice's speech indicates how little this is understood by the typical journalist, as well. But make no mistake, it made an impact. I can hear Hillary Clinton wincing--or is she squeeing with joy--from hear.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. Amateur hour indeed. If I am not mistaken, the cancellation of the missile shield came on the annyversary of the Russian invasion into Poland in WWII. Lech Walesa and other important guys from the time these countries were emerging from under Communism wrote Obama a pretty angry public letter, which was summarily dismissed by his supporters. An utterly bizarre moment, in my view.